Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Saturday, January 30, 2021

The New MyHeritage Restore Colors feature


One of the constants in a collection of old photos is the fact that many of them fade or change colors over time. This is a chemical process and increases in speed and intensity depending on the exposure of the photo to light. but it will happen even if the photos are kept in the dark. The photo on the left is a scan of the "original" photo. Now, has introduced a feature that allows its users to restore the color of old photos called Restore Colors. You can immediately see the difference this "new" process makes with the photo on the right. 

This new Restore Color process has been added to the Enhance and Colorize features that have been available for some time. Many of us had already noticed that colonizing some color photos would enhance the color and correct some of the fading and color shift but by highlighting this feature, opens up an even greater ability to help preserve all those old fading photos that many people actually throw away. 

Here is another photo. Although the changes are not dramatic in this particular photo, they certainly preserve the photo in a way that makes it come alive. 

If I also enhance the photo on here is what it looks like. 

If you think about this, you will realize that these three features, Colorize, Restore Color, and Enhance are probably worth the entire cost of the program if you happen to have tens of thousands of photos such as I do. 

Thursday, January 28, 2021

The Family History Guide Association receives Guidestar Approval


The Family History Guide Association, a 501(c)(3) public charity organization, is the funding organization behind The Family History Guide website. I am the Chairman of the Board of The Family History Guide Association. 

GuideStar by Candid is a vetting organization that investigates non-profit charities. If you have ever wondered if your donation to a non-profit was doing what it was supposed to do, you can see the profile of the non-profit corporations. Receiving a Guidestar Platinum Transparency Seal shows that The Family History Guide Association has provided GuideStar with all of the information shown on this webpage: Funders reward organizations with Seals. Here is a short description from GuideStar Seals of Transparency.

GuideStar Seals of Transparency indicate that a nonprofit has provided key information to its GuideStar profile. This recognition shows commitment to transparency. By providing up-to-date information, nonprofits allow potential donors and funders to make educated decisions.

Here is what a Seal of Transparency implies:

Is a Seal of Transparency a rating or endorsement by GuideStar?

No, it's not. GuideStar is not a watchdog and we do not evaluate nonprofits. Our goal is to provide unbiased information to help donors and key stakeholders make educated decisions about nonprofits and the work they do. A Seal of Transparency indicates that a nonprofit has updated its Nonprofit Profile by providing specific information. The Seal level (Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum) is determined by how much information the organization has shared. Again, it is not a rating or endorsement by GuideStar.

Because all of the support for The Family History Guide comes from non-profit 501(c)(3) public charity organization we depend entirely on donations. As you visit and work with The Family History Guide, consider supporting us with a donation will help to continue our work. Click here to see all about The Family History Guide Association

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Review your sources in the Family Tree


The Record Hints automatically supplied by the Family Tree and other websites are of marvelous assistance to our research process. But I am seeing that in many instances a "source" has been added to an individual in the Family Tree and the basic information about the individual in the "Vitals" section and elsewhere have not been updated. A recent example was that I found a source for an 1850 Federal Census record attached to a family where the information contained on the census schedule was different than the information recorded. Granted, sometimes the information in the source is incomplete or wrong but when the source is attached and has information that is missing in Vitals Section, then the information needs to be added. Another example that I find is that there is a birth date listed but an attached birth record has a different date. I could go on and on with examples. 

The real issue is that there is a disconnect between the sources and the information entered in the Family Tree (and other family trees also). I remember one time when I was helping someone with entering information into the Family Tree and when I entered a marriage date, the person watching me began arguing with me over the date I had added. She insisted that the date was wrong because she "knew" the date from memory and what I was entering was not what she knew to be correct. She stopped questioning me when I clicked over and showed her a copy of the marriage record that had already been attached as a source. 

Why is this important? First and foremost, the Record Hint program relies on the information already in the Vitals entries on which to base the searches for additional information. Secondly, seeing the date on the Vitals information will keep the researcher from using the correct information for research. Of course, when I am helping someone with their research, I have to be diplomatic about the way I help them see the need to keep the information displayed accurate and consistent. 

There is not a lot more to say about this subject. Look at the sources and make sure the reliable information in the sources is reflected in the entries in the Vitals section. 

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Findmypast adds thousands of U.S. Catholic Church Records

Over the past couple of years, has negotiated and established a relationship with the Catholic Church Diocese on the east coast of the United States to digitize and make available the parish records beginning in the 1600s. These are records that have previously never been easily accessed. This is not just another set of records to look at. If you have ancestors in America who were Catholic, this may be the first time you could find birth, marriage, and death records for them without going directly to the Diocese and Parishes. 

Please be aware that these records are now beginning to be available online from and completely searchable. Think of your Irish immigrant ancestors and those from any other country where the Catholic Church had members. 

Friday, January 22, 2021

Over 200,000 Register for RootsTech Connect 2021

We heard today, from a reliable source, that the registrations for RootsTech Connect 2021 were well over 200,000. This compares with previous years when about 23,000 people attended the in-person event. It would seem that having a virtual event is a lot more economical and reaches almost ten times as many people. Is this the format for the future? My guess is that there may be a hybrid conference with some in person. Quoting from the website:

For the first time ever, the world’s largest family celebration event will be entirely virtual and completely free. Get ready to celebrate shared connections with people from around the world. Connect with friends, your family, your past, and your heritage and homelands—all from the comfort of your home and in your browser.

Click here for registration. 

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Don't Get Obsessed with One Ancestor!


The reality is that you have thousands upon thousands of ancestors and millions of relatives. Too often, I am approached for help in finding one ancestor's parents. Also too often, I hear the same story about the years spent in researching that one person. I am also guilty of spending an inordinate amount of time researching one ancestral line and focusing on one ancestor. But during the past few years, I have learned that finding that elusive "brick wall" ancestor is often an unrealistic goal. Let me give an example of what I mean. 

Let's call my ancestor "Mr. X." he was born in the late 1600s but we do not know where he was born. We also do not have either a birth or death date or even a marriage date. We have only the given name of his wife and we do not know where she was born either. We do know his name. On its face, we do not know enough to find this person even if records existed that might help us find him. By the way, he has a common name shared by multiple men living in the same community and during the same time period.

You might think this example extreme but this is essentially what I frequently hear from those seeking my help and in fact, they usually do not know the name of the elusive parent. 

What else do I find when I begin to help these people? Almost always, there are family members who are known, such as children, for whom no research has been done. I saw one example about a week ago, where the parents were uncertain but the known end-of-line couple had about ten children listed and only two of them showed any sources supporting their identity in the family. 

The is family history, not an individual biography effort. We search for families as units. If you move on to another generation back in any family line before you have researched every member of the family, you are building on sand and not even wet sand. 

Here is what I suggest. Take a step back. Look at your research goals realistically. Start with an inventory of your known family lines. Make sure each generation is substantially supported by valid, believable sources from credible records. Make sure every family member is identified and substantiated. You might end up discovering that were never related to the elusive ancestor after all but even if you are related, you might find that it is more productive to focus on a different family line. You may even start to do some descendancy research. 

I spent about 15 years or more looking for the birthplace of one great-great-grandfather and finally found the location only to further discover that there were no available records and if there are, I would have to travel to another country to try to find the records. Genealogy is not a competitive sport. We do not get ribbons or trophies for finding the elusive ancestor but we do have a better chance of finding him or her if we spend the time to fill in all the blanks before we tackle the difficult elusive ancestor. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

More Keynote Speakers at RootsTech Connect 2021


Quoting from an email announcement:

RootsTech Connect 2021—the world’s largest event celebrating family—announces a diverse group of keynote speakers, who hail from England, India, and Uruguay. Speakers include Erick Avari, an award-winning performer in music, opera, theater, and film; Uruguayan former professional footballer Diego Lugano; and a top BBC serial drama actress who first came to prominence as a teenager, Sunetra Sarker.

RootsTech Connect, to be held on 25–27 February 2021, is a free online conference to discover, share, and celebrate family and heritage connections.

Here are the bios of the three new Keynote Speakers. 

Erick Avari, born in Darjeeling, West Bengal, India, is an Indian American television, film, and theater actor, writer, director and producer. He has performed in grand opera, on and off Broadway, in regional theaters, and in Hollywood blockbuster films, hit TV series, and award-winning independent films such as The Chosen. He is best known for his roles in Stargate, Independence Day, The Mummy, Daredevil, Planet of the Apes, and Mr. Deeds. Avari has been a trailblazer for a generation of South Asian actors in Hollywood. As part of his fight against stereotypical casting, he has convincingly played more than two dozen ethnicities.

Diego Lugano is a Uruguayan former professional footballer (soccer player) for many clubs in South America and Europe. He played in 95 matches as a member of the Uruguayan soccer team from 2003 to –2014. In 2010 and 2014, he captained the Uruguayan squad in the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup. His career began at the Club Nacional de Fútbol of Canelones in 1999. During his career, he played for Plaza Colonia, Fenerbahçe S.K., Paris Saint Germain, Málaga, West Bromwich Albion, BK Häcken, Cerro Porteño of Paraguay, and São Paulo. He has supported many causes defending the rights of children. He is now the superintendent of Institutional Relations of São Paulo FC.

Sunetra Sarker is an award-winning actress born in Liverpool, England, to Hindu parents. Her first acting success came at age 15, when she was cast as Nisha Batra on the Channel 4 serial drama Brookside. Her career took off, and during the next three decades she acted in an array of television series, earning awards for her performances, including an award for Best TV character at the Asian Media Awards. During her career, she made time for school, graduating in IT and French from Brunel University. She is a member of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), an independent charity to support, develop, and promote excellence in film, games, and television and creative talent in the United Kingdom and internationally.

Learn more and register for RootsTech Connect 2021 for free at 

Friday, January 15, 2021

The Case for the FamilySearch Family Tree


I frequently get some blowback comments in response to my posts talking about the Family Tree. Sometimes those comments are merely expressions of frustration but occasionally they are angry tirades basically against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am used to being attacked for my beliefs. As an experienced trial attorney, I spent the greater part of my life involved in bitter conflict as I handled thousands of court cases over the years. It turns out that my personal beliefs seem to annoy both liberals and conservatives as well as a goodly number of people from other religious denominations. 

The Family Tree is a work that has essentially been in progress since about 1894. Active, participating members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe the following taken from the Church's General Handbook

Member and Leader Participation in Temple and Family History Work

Church members have the privilege and responsibility to help unite their families for eternity. They prepare themselves to make covenants as they receive temple ordinances, and they strive to keep those covenants. They also help family members understand, receive, and strive to keep temple covenants. Parents have the primary responsibility to help their children experience the blessings of temple and family history service for deceased family members.

Church members are encouraged to identify their deceased relatives who have not received temple ordinances. Members then perform the ordinances on behalf of those relatives (see Doctrine and Covenants 128:18). In the spirit world, deceased individuals can choose to accept or reject the ordinances that have been performed for them.

Members also invite family and friends to learn about their ancestors and discover their stories. (Emphasis added)

Most of the religiously based anger expressed in blog comments centers around the idea that members of the Church "baptize other people's ancestors into the Church." Like many common beliefs today, this is a false conspiracy theory that has no basis in fact.

It is amazing to me how many otherwise seemingly rational people believe the huge reservoir of pure drivel in the form of conspiracy theories today. No matter how thoroughly the real "facts" are presented some people refuse to change their beliefs and what is more serious, they act on their pet conspiracy theories. 

Now, what do members of The Church of Jesus Christ believe and why is that belief offensive to those who are not members (or who are former members) that causes some people to send me derogatory comments?

If I were addressing that issue in the setting of a court of law, my case would look something like this:

#1 Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe in an afterlife. This is not just a general sort-of vague belief, this is a concrete and fundamental belief that people who die are still, as spirits, rational, active, individuals who can learn, make decisions, and are part of a complex spirit world. See Doctrine and Covenants 128:18. See also, Doctrine and Covenants 138.

#2 Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also believe that what we do here during our lives in this physical world will have a direct impact on our status and opportunities we will have once we die and move to the Spirit World. See Doctrine and Covenants 138: 6 -19

#3 Now, let's suppose that you are not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Can you presently make a choice as to whether to listen to the missionaries of the Church and either accept or reject what they teach? Granted, there are those who, because of their own conspiracy beliefs would persecute and even kill the Church's missionaries simply because of their beliefs. My own ancestors were so persecuted. If the Church's missionaries contact you, you can rail against them, spit on them, curse them, slam doors in their faces, and in many ways refuse to listen to them. I received this kind of treatment on my mission for the church and members of my own family have been physically assaulted and injured during their missionary service. 

#4 Now, we believe that the agency you have during this life continues to exist in what we call the Spirit World. Your relatives and ancestors are still alive in the spirit. They can still make their own decisions. They still have their own agency. You may not believe this but we do. 

#5 If we are correct and you are wrong, you really can't do anything about whether your ancestors and relatives accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ and if we are wrong, then there is no problem. Your ancestors and relatives have their agency and can make their own decisions. If we are wrong and the Spirit World and all we say does not exist then what we do here makes no difference. 

#6 We use the information in the Family Tree and anywhere else we can find information about our families to pursue the work we do for our kindred dead. We are only supposed to do the work for our own ancestors. The fact that some of my ancestors and some of your ancestors happen to be the same people is a fact of genealogy so you should not be at all surprised that I may be baptizing some of "your" ancestors because they are also "my" ancestors. 

#7 Keeping your own private "family tree" and not sharing it with me or anyone else will have absolutely no effect on whether or not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do baptisms for the dead or other Temple ordinances. See Temple and Family History Work in the Ward and Stake,

#8 You may hate the Church. You may persecute me or any other member of the Church. You may refuse to share your genealogical research with anyone you think might possibly be a member of the Church. You may write, preach against, and physically assault members of the Church but here is the response:

33 How long can rolling waters remain impure? What power shall stay the heavens? As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints. Doctrine and Covenants 121: 33

#9 I rest my case. It is your loss. Your failure to take advantage of the Family Tree and all its free benefits will not prevent me from doing my own genealogical research. As has already happened, your complaints and comments have made Facebook block my posts in my other blog. A fact, given the present controversy, is unbelievable. But I will still do my genealogical research and if I happen to be related to you, I will be doing research into your family as well as my own. I am grateful for the Family Tree and all of the other wonderful genealogical resources we have today. My motivation may be different than yours but I am sincere in my beliefs and well-founded in logic and my own personal experience and I appreciate and defend your right to believe and you wish to believe. See the following:

11 We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them dworship how, where, or what they may. Articles of Faith Number 11

Additional note. If you are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and refuse to do your own genealogy and/or refuse to participate in the Family Tree for whatever reason. You have many of the same issues as if you were not a member at all. You might want to consider what you actually believe. No one said the work was going to be easy.  

Thursday, January 14, 2021 -- Year 2020 in Review


Now a FamilySearch partner, is a relatively new online, digital genealogical database and family tree website specializing in French records. The website is based on a bigdata platform coupled with algorithms constantly improved thanks to "machine learning", this service allows users to easily build their family tree from digitalized archives, transcribed and indexed in a unique search engine. The above infographic shows the growth of the website during the past year. 

You can begin a family tree by uploading a GEDCOM file or simply by beginning to add names. If you know some French, it helps but the website is translated into English. 

The website has a very unusual family tree format that has some distinct advantages. 

If you have French ancestors, you will be glad to have another research option. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Change is good: The FamilySearch Family Tree

Handling the changes made to the FamilySearch Family Tree?

It has now been going on nine years since the introduction of the Family Tree website. During the entire time the Family Tree has been online, I have been hearing exactly the same complaints about changes being made to the Family Tree. Despite the fact that after this considerable amount of time and the spectacular growth of both the Family Tree and the whole website, Users focus on the particularly narrow issue of change and ignore the benefits of having a stable, easily accessible, free, dependable, and extremely useful website. 

I have written on this and similar topics many times. Here is one example, "Why do we need the Family Tree?"

What about changes? First of all, the Family Tree is based on a wiki program where users can contribute content and edit existing content. This idea makes some people nervous and upset basically because they believe that what they contribute is perfect and any change is a threat to their belief. The fact that I am still writing about this subject after almost nine years is an indication of the depth of those user beliefs. 

Here in the United States, we have been bombarded with a deluge of crackpot conspiracy theories and widely disseminated misinformation. Some of which has been intentionally disseminated. Apparently, the issue of trying to spread information without checking the source or reliability of the source is endemic in our society. This is NOT a political issue. It is a societal disease. When entries to the Family Tree are supported by exhaustive source citations and Memories, the entries become stable and rarely subject to change. The key to avoiding changes is easy to set out in a short series of steps. The key to keep from being misled by FALSE NEWS is exactly the same process. Extensively research everything and anything before becoming upset with what other people are saying and doing and don't you dare pass along rumors, conspiracy theories, or anything similar. We are genealogists and therefore responsible to be accurate. 

Step #1: Take the time to fully document every single person in your family lines. Start with the first dead people in your family lines and systematically work back in time adding every single available source you can find. Make sure you carefully evaluate and add every record hint suggested by the Family Tree program. 

Step #2: Carefully watch or follow star on every person where you care about seeing changes. Look at your Watch List to make sure you really want to know about the changes to all the people listed. I am presently watching 346 people and this is adequate to maintain the integrity of my part of the Family Tree. 

Step #3: Continue to carefully and completely document every addition you make to the Family Tree. Do not watch or worry about people in the Family Tree who have no documentation unless you have a specific reason for doing so. 

Step #4: Make sure you are receiving the weekly notifications from FamilySearch about changes to the people you are following. Read the notice and look at every change that gives you any concern. 

Step #5: Make all the needed corrections that appear on the change email. Make sure your corrections are supported by more than adequate documentation, i.e. sources. 

Step #6: Take the time to explain your corrections to each and every person making an improper change. I use some standard responses that I have saved on my OneNote program and copy and paste the response, modified if needed, to every person making an incorrect change. Make sure you are not trying to correct accurate information. If you chance to change one of the people I am following, you will hear from me. 

Step #6: Keep doing this over and over. Over time, you will find that the number of unsubstantiated changes will diminish substantially or disappear. 

You have to take all these steps. If the person you are watching keeps changing, then come forward in time and start documenting the connections to that person. If you are trying to correct changes in a person who is not documented you are wasting your time. 

Luck is not involved. Consistency is more important than any other consideration. 

Monday, January 11, 2021

How accurate is the FamilySearch Family Tree?


At RootsTech in March of 2013, announced the "new" Family Tree program. Almost immediately, the Family Tree came under scrutiny and criticism for its "wiki" structure. In the online world, wikis have been around for a really long time. Quoting from the Wikipedia article, "History of wikis:"
The history of wikis begins in 1994, when Ward Cunningham gave the name "WikiWikiWeb" to the knowledge base, which ran on his company's website at, and the wiki software that powered it. The "wiki went public" in March 1995—the date used in anniversary celebrations of the wiki's origins. is thus the first true wiki, or a website with pages and links that can be easily edited via the browser, with a reliable version history for each page. He chose "WikiWikiWeb" as the name based on his memories of the "Wiki Wiki Shuttle" at Honolulu International Airport, and because "wiki" is the Hawaiian word for "quick".

Because of the collaborative structure of wikis and the fact that they are open to editing by almost anyone who registers, wikis came under fire for being inaccurate and unreliable. It was common for school teachers at all levels to ban their use for student research. Obviously, the academic attitude towards wikis has changed somewhat over the last 26 or so years but there is still a residual amount of blowback about the Family Tree.  

The Family Tree is presently approximately the same structure as it was when it was introduced back in 2013. But the content and reliability of the Family Tree have changed and improved dramatically. Admittedly, there are still pockets of "revolving door" changes but overall, the Family Tree has matured into the most important way to determine the status of any level of genealogical or family history research. Each of the other large, online, genealogy database/family tree websites has hundreds of thousands or millions of individual family trees. The duplication of effort is staggering. Major and minor differences between the individual family trees are remarkably common. Arriving at a determination of the accuracy of any one family tree on any one of the programs is difficult and time-consuming. When you examine the Family Tree, you can immediately see if there is a consensus about the information based on well over a hundred years of genealogical research. 

Now, what about those areas of the Family Tree where there is no consensus? Most, if not all of the antagonism against the Family Tree comes from focusing on the individual entries where original source records are scarce or lacking or where "family traditions" have become entrenched at the expense of accuracy. The reality of the Family Tree is that millions of original source records documenting the information available are being regularly added. Those individuals who dogmatically try to force their "tradition" on the entries in the Family Tree at the expense of the documentation are literally dying off. On the other hand, the number of people who do careful systematic research is increasing. 

There is also a residual level of "anti-Mormon" sentiment about the Family Tree that surfaces from time to time. I get some extremely negative comments that usually condemn the Family Tree based on the beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the sponsor of FamilySearch. All I can really say about those who harbor hatred towards the Church and by association, the Family Tree, is that if you don't like it, ignore it and duplicate all your family research on your own. 

What about the accuracy of the Family Tree? Let me give an example. Arthur Augustus Bryant LH5N-522 is presently listed with a death date of "from July 1934 to September 1934" in Blean, Kent, England. Interestingly, there are 31 source records attached to this person. A quick look at the attached source records reveals census records, parish registers, and civil registration records. A link to quickly shows a record from the England & Wales Government Probate Death Index 1858-2019 giving his exact death date and place. I can then modify the information in the Family Tree and add the source citation in a matter of under five minutes. The entry now has another source and a correctly supported death date and place. This is happening tens of thousands of times a day to the information in the Family Tree. 

It is now far past the time when the nearsighted and narrowly focused criticism of the Family Tree should stop. Rather than rail against the changes, how about spending the time and effort to document and collaborate those entries where there is little or no interest or dispute. Those entries, usually back in the 1700s or earlier that are the subject of so many changes will ultimately be resolved as the underlying entries become well documented. 

By the way, you are welcome to add your comments and rant all you like. Those of us who watch the Family Tree every day and are constantly adding source and correcting the entries welcome your comments unless they are irrational or uncivil in which case they will never appear as comments on this blog.


Saturday, January 9, 2021

The semi-finalists have been announced for the RootsTech Song Contest! The last day to vote is January 21st, so don't wait! Vote for your favorite song today by clicking the link here:

Remember, RootsTech Connect 2021 is free and you can still register. Here is a quote from
For the first time ever, the world’s largest family celebration event will be entirely virtual and completely free. Get ready to celebrate shared connections with people from around the world. Connect with friends, your family, your past, and your heritage and homelands—all from the comfort of your home and in your browser.

Click here to register. 

Finding Your Ancestors in Private Sources


To some people, this pile of old suitcases and trunks would be a nightmare. To a seasoned genealogist, this is a dream come true. I don't think we talk enough about relying on the records that may be hiding in places like this one. Over the years, I have accumulated tens of thousands of valuable records merely by asking and being willing to take all the "junk" out of the basement or attic. Even if we are so fortunate to find a treasure trove like the one above, we often throw away some of the most valuable records simply because they don't have a huge stamp in red on them that says "genealogy." 

Here are some of the types of documents that can contain valuable genealogical information but are not necessarily commonly identified as genealogical records. 

  • Automobile records
  • Fire insurance records
  • Health records
  • Live and Casualty Insurance Records
  • Marine Records
  • Deeds and Title documents
  • Some kinds of Utility Bills and Records
  • Ledgers
  • Letters and Diaries
Many of us at some time in our lives, will have a relative die and we will be the person asked to go through their belongings. Over the years, I have heard a number of stories of valuable records being saved at the last minute from the dumpster. 

You may well ask why insurance or utility bills are valuable documents. The answer is in three words: names, dates, and places. If you are the type of genealogist who fills in the blanks in a family tree and then checks that entry off as complete, then there is little that I can say that will convince you that these documents are valuable. Likewise, if you look at old documents as clutter, you probably have no interest in learning about the benefits of going through a pile like the one above. But if you view your family history as history, you will immediately recognize that this pile has the potential of providing valuable information. 

Let me give one example. You find a ledger for your relative's business with entries showing sales to the surrounding community. This ledger becomes a list of names of people who could provide additional information about your ancestor. I have seen collections of documents that contained enough information to reconstruct an entire community. 

Let's all start thinking about the value of the information in this category of records. Now, if you really don't want to store all that paper, at least take the time to digitize all the records and work through them digitally. But make sure you back up your files and share them online when that is available. 

Friday, January 8, 2021

Genealogy During a Pandemic; an Update


We have all now been involved in a worldwide pandemic for almost a year. For many years now, I have been working online so the transitions to working at home that many people experienced did not affect me significantly. I just spent more time online. Learning to use a new online video conferencing program was also not much of a challenge because I had already done hundreds of classes and webinars online. 

Of course, there was and is a significant personal and family impact. However, in some ways, because our family is spread out across the world, we have developed ways to maintain contact with our family members that have increased our interaction as a family. 

With the increase in online communication, The Family History Guide began a major increase in its video output. In the past, I have worked with computer-aided video. I started back when the idea of using computers to edit video was in its infancy. As a dedicated photographer, I have completely embraced the digital image world. It has been a long time since I used film to take a photograph. I learned how to use some of the first video editing tools but the huge number of videos needed for The Family History Guide project gave me an incentive to acquire a professional level of competence. I started with spending a considerable time learning Adobe Premier Pro 2020 and then spending additional time learning all of the details of its operation and use. I also learned Adobe Audition and some of the other video-related programs. Here is one of the latest videos on The Family History Guide YouTube Channel.

The Family History Guide - Naturalization and Passenger Lists, Goal D2

These short videos and many others on our YouTube Channel focus on very specific research opportunities or on reinforcing learning specific tasks. The other series of videos on the YouTube Channel is called the "Show Me" videos. Here is one example. 

The Family History Guide FamilySearch P1 G1 Show Me

Many other members of The Family History Guide team have been directly or indirectly involved in helping me or in the making of additional videos. Here is an example of one of the recent videos made by Scott and Angelle Anderson.

Why I Absolutely Love The Family History Guide

In addition to being involved in videography, I have been busy with several other projects. One of these is the Facebook Live series of webinars. I have another Facebook Live appearance scheduled for January 27, 2021. 

In addition, as a missionary at the Brigham Young University Family History Library, I am teaching live classes each Sunday evening a 5:00 and continuing my monthly scheduled webinars. The classes are not recorded but the webinars are uploaded to the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel along with videos produced by many other missionaries. Here is an example of a recent webinar from the YouTube Channel. 

Genealogy is a Life and Death Matter: Moving Beyond the Obvious Records

With all this video production, all the classes, and all the webinars, I have not been posting on my blogs as regularly as I did previously. In the near future, I may help start a weekly online Facebook Live broadcast and add even more videos to The Family History Guide YouTube Channel

As I usually do, I welcome emails, telephone calls, and text messages asking for help with your genealogy research. I have had some really interesting questions asked recently. 

Thursday, January 7, 2021

2020 GenSoftReviews Users Choice Awards


As the new year begins, it is time again for the annual GenSoftReviews Users Choice Awards. Since 2008, GenSoftReviews, has had users write 5,874 reviews for the 1,041 different genealogy-based programs listed at the site. If you haven't looked at the list of programs and reviews on this website, you are probably not fully aware of the huge number of old and new genealogy programs available. 

I am always interested in the Users Choice Awards because they reflect a broad base of people who use a variety of genealogy programs. I am grateful to my friend Louis Kessler for his wonderful contribution for his blog and for the GenSoftReviews website

One of the most remarkable and from my perspective is the reoccurring popularity of DEAD programs such as Personal Ancestral File which wins every year. The winners, meaning those with the highest number and best ratings, are a commentary on the failure of the efforts of the large online family history websites to fully educate their users. My observation of this issue comes from the number of reviews every year for "unsupported" programs. These are programs that have been abandoned by their developers and are no longer upgraded. My concern here is that the information stored in these programs will ultimately be lost due to computer operating system changes and hardware upgrades. Computer programs must change over time to adapt to new technology or die. 

Again, take the time to look at the list of User Choice Awards and also review the long list of programs on the GenSoftReviews website

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

MyHeritage Year in Review, an Infographic

 We had a memorial year in many ways, some good, some not so good. As genealogists, even though we were sequestered through social distancing, we benefitted from some fantastic tools added by MyHeritage to the website. This infographic will give you some idea of the progress made during the infamous year of 2020. You can click on the image to see an enlarged view. 

Monday, January 4, 2021

Year End Review from Findmypast

The New Year always brings retrospectives of the past year. had a banner year despite the limitations of the pandemic. There have been substantial changes and upgrades to the website including the following:

  • Improved family tree and search experiences
  • A thriving Findmypast online community
  • Hundreds of millions of new and exclusive family records including regular additions to records from the United States
  • 40 million newspaper pages digitized
I am still exploring the changes to the family tree but I am seeing a major increase in record hints. I have always found to be extremely useful for finding my British and Australian ancestors and relatives. If you have ancestors or relatives from the former British Empire, you need to be well acquainted with and regularly using